Need A Fireplace Grate? Three Basic Types To Consider

Posted on: 23 October 2015

If your old fireplace grate has seen better days, it's time to upgrade. If you're burning "bare floor" then it's time to get with the program. The following explains why grates are important and how to determine which of the three main types may work best for you.

Why Are Grates Needed?

  • A grate lifts the wood off the floor of the fireplace. That allows air to be pulled in from underneath the wood. This influx of additional oxygen makes the wood burn hotter and more efficiently. At the same time, since the majority of the burn is kept on the grate, your fireplace floor is protected and will last longer.
  • If any burning bits of wood fall through the grate to the fireplace floor, the airflow will keep the coals hotter. This helps the wood on the grate burn from the bottom up. You won't have to adjust the wood so often for a good blaze.
  • It's also easier to light the fire because of the additional airflow. Just keep the ashes cleared out from around the grate and you'll have a fire going in no time.

What Type of Fireplace User Are You?

  • A light user is someone that only lights fires for atmosphere on holidays or for other social functions, and may only need a lightweight grate.
  • If you're using your fireplace at least once or twice a month, then you are usually considered a frequent user and should consider a medium to heavy grade grate.
  • If your fireplace is a prime source of heat and burns almost daily, you'll need the heaviest grate available.
  • No matter how much you use your fireplace, if you prefer to burn hardwoods such as oak or maple, it's best to get a heavier grate. These woods burn much hotter than softwoods.

Types of Grates

Both steel and cast iron grates come in light, medium and heavy grades. The newcomer on the block, the heater grate, adds a different dimension to your fireplace burning experience.  

  • Steel Grates. Steel grates don't usually last as long as the cast iron variety, but they are lighter and easier to move around for cleaning. Some models have widely spaced bars, making them great for wood but not practical for coal.
  • Cast Iron Grates. Cast iron grates are heavy both because of the material and the design. These grates have smaller spaces between the bars to keep wood and coal burning longer on the grate before they fall through. Cast iron also works well with some brands of wood pellets or scrap wood.
  • Grate Heaters. Grate heaters are more expensive, but they increase the heat output from your wood fire. Hollow tubing along the sides of the grate pulls in hot air from the fire. A fan, usually mounted on one of the front sides, blows the air into the room from another side vent. Less hot air goes directly out the fireplace. Grate heaters usually require special doors with vent bars on the bottom.